Throw Money At It 3: SEO and Initial Results

It’s been around three weeks since I started the “Throw Money At It” project, during which I attempt to build profitable sites by paying for all content and SEO and doing as little work of my own as possible, on the sites. In other words, I’m trying to “pay my way” to a profitable website, using content and SEO/link-building services.

In today’s update, I want to share some exciting initial results and tell you about the two most important factors that lead to great rankings for the sites in this project.

First (new) Commission!

There are currently three sites in the Throw Money At It project. #1 is a product-review site that’s already earning a steady income, #2 is a brand-new AdSense website and #3 is a product-review site that has been around for a while, but has never made any money (~200 clicks sent to a product that just won’t convert – time to change products).

On this last site, I added five new product reviews that I had ordered from one of my content sources. Only about a week after being added, most of these articles are already on the first or second page. Here’s a snapshot from my rank-tracking report:


Most of these keywords are what I’d consider “medium competitive”, since they are keywords for popular products, that have many affiliates building review sites and articles and competing for the top spot.

A few points to consider:

  • The fact that the content is very fresh helps. It’s not unlikely that those rankings would drop again, if I did no further promotion.
  • The keywords in question do not have very high search volumes, but they are “product name review” keywords, which are usually great in terms of conversions.
  • One of the reviews earned it’s first commission of $39, after sending just nine clicks through the affiliate link.

While the site is nowhere near recouping the roughly $1K investment I’ve made in it so far, I take this early first commission as a good sign.

What about the AdSense site? It’s filled up with a dozen pages of decent content and I’ve had several types of links built to it, but it has not reached any front-page rankings yet and traffic is still practically non-existant.

On-Page Optimization

If you’re wondering what kind of magical super-backlinks I used to make the rankings for site #3 shoot up like they did and maybe wondering why I didn’t do the same for the non-performing AdSense site, the answer is simple: there are no magical backlinks involved.

Free On-Page SEO GuideIn fact, the great ranking results site #3 is getting have almost nothing to do with backlinks. There are two “secrets” to those rankings that I want to share with you right now. Secret number one is what I call “Rich Content Optimization”. I’ve written a short guide on this topic, that you can get completely for free, here. In a nutshell, these are the elements I put on a page to get high rankings out of the gate:

  •  Lots of Content
    I’m talking about 800 words minimum for a page I actually want to get ranked in Google. 1000+ words is better, 2000 words is great. Google clearly favors content-volume these days.
  • Quality Content
    As explained in part 2 of this project, I use high-quality, well researched and well-written content only. Even though I still have a couple of sites with low-quality content that are doing okay and making me money, I’m doing far better with the sites where I’ve invested a bit more and published only the cream of the crop.
  • Images
    I use a minimum of two images per post or page (that’s excluding logo/header images or anything in the sidebars). Ideally, I want to have one image for each segment of an article, so that you can always see at least one image as you’re scrolling through the text. Images definitely help not only with rankings but also with user-engagement and conversions.
  • Lists and Formatting
    I try to have at least one part of the text in list-format, either as bullet-points or as a numbered list. I also use sub-headlines to segment the text. I don’t know if Google pays any attention to well-formatted vs. unformatted text. I suspect they do. What I know for sure is that good formatting can increase conversions dramatically.
  • Video
    If possible, I add one video to each of my target pages. Google is loving video right now and if you get a listing that includes a video-thumbnail, it does wonders for your click-through rates.

Here’s an example of such a video-thumbnail in the Google results:


All of the above makes for content that is way easier to get ranked and get good results from than your typical 300-words-for-3-bucks article or auto-scraped content. But there’s one more factor that comes into play and while I don’t like it, I can’t deny it.

Site/Domain Age

Ranking factor: domain ageFor my underwhelming AdSense site, I know that I need to add some more media (images, video) and tweak the formatting here or there, but what I also know is that rankings won’t happen over night. One big reason that rankings did happen more-or-less over night for site #3 is that this site is already more than one year old. The AdSense site, on the other hand, hasn’t even seen a full month pass, yet.

Apart from the amount and quality of content and apart from backlinks, site age is definitely an important ranking factor. It will take at least a few months before my new site gains Google’s trust, in my estimation. Until that happens, I won’t be going crazy on spending money for backlinking services. I will keep a steady flow going, but I don’t expect floods of traffic within the first few months.

I am considering experiments with aged domains or pre-existing websites, but haven’t made final plans yet. Maybe there’s something in there for a site #4? I’ll let you know if I decide to go ahead with this idea.

That’s all I have to report for now. As you know, SEO is a rather slow process, so I don’t expect anything dramatic to happen anytime soon. I do hope that I can get some top 5 rankings pretty soon and maybe a few more commissions. I will, of course, write another update, as soon as something worth reporting transpires.

All the best,

All Posts in the “Throw Money At It” Project:

  1. Part 1: The Project
  2. Part 2: Outsourcing Content
  3. Part 3: Real-World On-Page SEO – currently viewing
  4. Part 4: Results After Two Months

About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better marketer and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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